I experienced an emotional, rollercoaster journey after losing Alicia, my only child, and I embraced grief and wore it as a badge of honor. I later spent years researching the family dynamics around communication between mothers and physicians, the grief of a mother, and the developmental effects of children dealing with medical illnesses. My research sparked the creation of multiple businesses, A Pathway From Grief, PDM Journey Coaching, and MIRACLE Online Bookstore. I also hold a patent for Therapeutic Dolls and am a Public Speaker.
I am an overcomer of stuttering who has intentionally avoided public speaking. I jokingly talk about the coaching profession that once required me to sit in small circular groups, now requires me to speak behind podiums. My value-packed presentations have changed the lives of uncountable women and their family members. As a divorcee, I raised three children, who are all now successful adults. I attribute my creativity, decision-making skills, innovation, and strength to my faith in Jesus Christ.
I experienced death on several occasions. At seventeen, my first personal experience was when a drunken driver struck our family vehicle during a road trip; I witnessed the death of my two younger brothers, who could not escape the flaming vehicle. However, the death that ultimately changed my life was when my daughter Alicia died; I permitted myself to go into a confused, dark, lonely, silent space of grief.
My daughter, Alicia, was born beautiful, happy, and healthy. At the age of 1-1/2, she underwent exploratory surgery; over 90% of her intestines were identified as gangrenous and had to be removed, requiring Alicia to wear a colostomy bag. The physician told me, “For the rest of Alicia’s life, she would have to be fed intravenously.”
Although I learned to care for my now chronically ill daughter, the mental battle of not feeding her naturally was emotionally distressing. I purposefully avoided the scent of food flowing throughout our home and secretly ate to avoid Alicia seeing me intake foods. I became a food junkie and survived by eating chocolate chip cookies and cakes and drinking Pepsi throughout the day. Months later, Alicia’s bowel was reconnected, which permitted her to attempt eating again. When she was given food, her interest and desire to eat faded, and she found only pleasure in playing with her food by sprinkling salt and other condiments onto her plate. Life for us took on a new normal!
Alicia’s broviac catheter would periodically clog; on those occasions, she would have to undergo surgery to replace it. One morning as Alicia lay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) recuperating after surgery, she went into cardiac arrest. An EEG confirmed she had lapsed into a coma; she remained comatose for ten months. She died just four months before her fourth birthday due to complications related to Short Bowel Syndrome.
My grief after Alicia’s death differed from my siblings. Perhaps it was the concept of her being my child, the gift I was blessed to conceive, carry full-term and give birth to. From the moment she was placed in my arms, I imagined us sharing life together. And now, she's gone forever. I was left feeling lost, alone, angry, and scared after the death of my Alicia. Often, I felt as if my life was a nightmare, and I could not awaken; I could not believe Alicia was gone FOREVER! I felt deep pain, but I could not touch it. I wanted peace and did not feel entitled. I believed no one understood the depth of loneliness, pain, and sorrow I experienced after the death of Alicia... my firstborn and my only child!
I observed other grievers and listened to how they embraced grief as if it was a badge of honor as they affirmed to grieve until eternity. I, too, aligned with their grief beliefs and went further into my darkness. I became emotionally and physically exhausted from the intentional grief, wanting to feel better but bombarded with guilt for even thinking about freedom.
Being the analytical person I am, I began to observe and ask questions of the grievers as I wondered what value they were getting from their grief. I realized their grief had no value. They were aligning with a myth from what someone told, someone, who told someone, and they told someone, and they told them. Whether it was a transfer of words or an observation that led to mimicking, grievers learned about grief from listening and watching other grievers.
I began examining myself and my purpose for life and allowed myself to adjust my mindset and believe in something new. The journey from where I was, dark, dreary, and empty to where I am, free, happy, and purposeful, was long, uncomfortable, and without instructions. I figured it out! I discovered that being free of grief is healthier and safer and makes you and those around you happier. After becoming grief-free, the world opened up to me with new freedom, ideas, and perspectives. Because of my grief freedom, I have been able to do all I have done to support children, mothers and their families, and communities. It is because of my freedom from grief that I can say, "Alicia’s life gave me joy, but her death gave me purpose."